Thursday, March 20, 2008
I'd read favorable reviews recently of Corbin's Bar & Grill on Central just south of Dunlap in Sunnyslope. Looking for a good lunch nearby, Tara and I stopped in on a Saturday afternoon around 3pm. The restaurant has a nice modern, stainless steel interior. A long bar and row of booths are separated from the main dining room by a low wall of pane glass. We both liked the interior. We were seated at a booth in the dining room that was, for me, quite snug. Tara didn't have any problem with it. The restaurant only had three or four tables of patrons, most of whom appeared to be lingering over the leftovers of their lunch.
After a few minutes, a waitress came by for our drink order, a Coke for each of us. The restaurant's menu is typical New American. Tara eventually settled on a Caesar Salad - Chopped Romaine, croutons, eggless Caesar dressing & Parmesan Reggiano with a chicken breast added. I got the Carolina Burger - Apple-smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, red onion & our own BBQ sauce.
Service was polite, but our waitress seemed somewhat distant or distracted. Our drinks were after sitting empty for a few minutes, but not too bad. During their downtime, the other wait staff would sit at a large table and roll silverware inside napkins. I figured they were more focused on getting things ready for dinner, which at 3pm, didn't really bug me.
Our meal arrived after a short wait. Tara's Caesar was really good. She loved that it had "copious" (her specifically requested word) amounts of shredded Parmesan Reggiano. There was plenty of dressing and it had a distinctive flavor that seems to be missing from most Caesar dressing I've had in restaurants. It was definitely a keeper.
My burger came with seasoned fries, pickled cauliflower, and a quarter of a strawberry in a huge basket. The hamburger meat had a great flavor. It was seasoned perfectly or was just really good beef. I couldn't really taste the BBQ sauce, but the rest was so good I didn't mind. The bacon was outstanding. We asked where they sourced it, but despite promising to find out, they never told us. They did say they smoke their own meats, like the pulled pork and ribs. The bun was very dense and held up nicely. The fries were really good. Tara probably ate as many as I did or more. She thought it tasted like Lawry's seasoning, but wasn't quite sure. She just really liked them. The pickled cauliflower was actually quite good. It was a very sour pickle, but I ended up wanting more of it.
Overall, the first visit impressed us with the food, although service wasn't the best.
We made a second visit this past weekend with less favorable results. We went on Friday or Saturday night, I can't remember. They were nearly packed around 7:30 or so. We got the second to last free table. We sat for several minutes, with every single waitress walking by our table with no one stopping by. Eventually one of them stopped and asked if we'd been helped yet. Well, we figured the fact that we still had our menus and no drinks on the table was a tip-off that we hadn't. We got a pair of Cokes and the waitress departed.
After a pretty long wait, a different waitress with Day-Glo pink hair brought our drinks. By this time we'd settled on our order. Tara got the pulled-pork sandwich and I got a half rack of their dry-rubbed ribs. We were both curious since we were told they were smoked in-house.
As we waited, I finished my soda and it sat empty for a long time. Eventually our waitress, on one of her many passes by our table, asked if I wanted another one. I did. She then vanished for a long time. I saw her again, but my refill seemed to be forgotten. She finally brought it but I almost think she forgot at one point.
At the half hour mark after we ordered, Tara and I began to wonder where our food was. Pulled pork and ribs are generally slow cooked, so this seemed like a really long wait. It got worse when we watched a couple who came in well after us received their meal. Ours finally showed up five or ten minutes later.
This time the food didn't impress us. Tara pork didn't seem to have much flavor and the BBQ sauce didn't add anything. My ribs were cooked perfect and were almost fall off the bone, but they, too, seemed to lack any real flavor. The ribs came with fries and cole slaw, all served on one plate. So the ribs sat partially on top of the wet cole slaw, and the fries got soggy from the cole slaw dressing on the plate. It was a very odd plating decision. There was no room left on the plate, so it was interesting to eat. I ended up cutting the ribs in half and using an unused appetizer plate to eat them.
Service definitely didn't impress us. We noticed that the larger parties, between 6 and 8 people, got lots of attention. Smaller tables were nearly neglected. It seemed like they were concentrating on making sure the bigger groups would tip well. Hopefully it worked for them, since I tipped on how well they served us and I'm pretty sure she wasn't pleased when she saw it.
So on two visits, food was great once, and middling the next. To be fair, we were judging the pulled pork and ribs against our favorite BBQ joint, Joe's Real BBQ, as well as the ribs at Houston's. While the burger was good, my Carolina burger was almost $13. Since I couldn't really taste the extras that bump the price up from the base $9.95 burger, there are better deals to be found. The thing that will probably keep us away was the service. The waitstaff seemed to be busy for the most part, but our small party of two seemed to only warrant attention when absolutely necessary. We didn't really feel welcomed, which would seem to be one of the things a local neighborhood hangout would try to project.